(Severn House site description)
Jack and Betty Haldean’s weekend in the country is disrupted by sudden, violent death in this intricately-plotted 1920s mystery.
“There’s something in those woods that shouldn’t be there . . .”
Enjoying a weekend in the country with his cousin Isabelle, Jack Haldean is intrigued to learn that the neighbouring estate of Birchen Bower has been bought by wealthy Canadian businessman Tom Jago. Determined to restore the place to its former glory, Jago has invited the local villagers to a fete to celebrate the grand re-opening of the 17th century family chapel.
But the afternoon’s entertainment is cut short by the discovery of a body, mauled to death as if by a wild animal. Previously owned by the eccentric Cayden family, Birchen Bower has a long and colourful history, and is rumoured to be haunted. Is there any truth to the ancient family legend of the Jaguar Princess . . . and could she have claimed another victim? And what’s happened to Jago’s employee, Derek Martin and his wife, who have disappeared without trace . . . along with Mrs Jago’s diamonds?
Refusing to believe the wild tales of man-eating beasts prowling the grounds, Jack sets out to uncover the truth. But then a second badly-ravaged body is discovered . . . Could the rumours be true after all?
A mysterious estate in the English countryside rumoured to be haunted. Diamonds disappeared in the thin air – just like people. A jaguar that seems to appear every few decades to kill animals and people. An expert on psych events. I mean, what’s not to love? This was so easy to read. The mystery carried me almost by hand from beginning to end, and some episodes were simply unputdownable. That’s particularly true for the central episode that takes place at night in the haunted chapel, clearly the heart of the story. It’s really spooky, but it’s also cleverly created so that, in the end, everything is explainable. The cast of characters is interesting and varied, though maybe not very large for a mystery.
In fact, while I enjoyed the novel, I found the mystery a bit too unlikely and slightly predictable, simply because there were so few characters to suspect. I did find the ending to stretch my suspension of disbelief – a bit disappointing, considering how good the story was.
But it was still a nice read, with the right amount of mystery, dark mood, relatable recurring cast and interesting, specific cast. I certainly recommend it to all lovers of historical cosy mysteries.The Chapel in the Wood by Dolores Gordon-Smith (cosy mystery) A #mysterybook full of atmosphere… and ghosts? #bookreview #amreading Click To Tweet
The Chapel in the Woods
Lefevre didn’t like it. ‘Major Haldean!’ he said reprovingly. ‘I have had reason before to upbraid you for unseemly levity. May I remind you that we are…’ He broke off with a gasp. ‘Something touched me!’
‘What?’ asked Jeck, starting to his feet.
Lefevre was clearly shaken. ‘I don’t know. Something touched my face! Don’t you see?’ His voice cracked. ‘We’re inside the pentacle. Nothing should be able to touch us!’
Jago stood up, shotgun in hand. ‘If someone’s fooling around…’ He broke off with a little yelp, clutching at his face. ‘It’s the jungle!’ He saw Jack and Lefevre’s puzzled faces. ‘Have you never been in the jungle? There’s webs, creepers, foul things.’ He raised the shotgun.
‘Don’t shoot!’ said Lefevre urgently. ‘There mustn’t be any light.’
Jago lowered the gun, panting slightly. ‘I like to see what I’m shooting at,’ he said, clearly ashamed of his nerves, then, with a startled cry, staggered back.
Jack rammed a hand against his back, just in time to stop him falling out of the pentacle. ‘What the devil is it, Jago?’
Jago put a hand to his hair, then stared at his open palm in the light of the candles. ‘Cobwebs,’ he said shakily. ‘Look!’
Jack took the grey mass from Jago’s hand. It was certainly a spider’s web. ‘It… It could’ve fallen from the roof,’ he said uncertainly. ‘It could be natural.’
‘Natural be damned,’ snarled Jago. ‘I tell you, it’s the jungle!’ He hefted the shotgun again.
‘Don’t shoot!’ cried Lefevre in an agony of apprehension. He seized hold of the muzzle of the gun. ‘You’ll put us all in danger.’
The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy . It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursdays and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.